Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chris Price Visits A Fire Station in Coorg!

We did it! We got to visit a fire station in India! And not just any station -- the fire station in Gonikoppa, the town closest to my parent's new home in Coorg.

The visit was impromptu, and the end of a long day. Also, there were some language barriers. None of them spoke English, and my mother's Kodatakka is beginner-level, so she ended up speaking to one in Hindi and then translated back to English.

But, it turns out, firefighters can talk about gear pretty easily across a lot of languages. Chris was totally geeking out on getting a tour of the truck and learning what type of equipment they carry, their tactical approach to fighting fires in such a rural place, and all sorts of other technical data that was beyond me. Therefore, I'm letting him annotate this blog post with his thoughts and observations. Look for his comments in italics.

I'm just happy Minny finally listens to my input on anything.

The men were shy at first, probably taken aback by having a visitor at all, and then on top of it, having it be a white guy. But they eventually warmed up and shared a lot of information about their day and life at the fire station.

The firefighters at this station were extremely gracious to show me around, considering I just showed up at their door unannounced.  Once my translator (Minny's mom) was able to explain that I worked as a firefighter in the U.S., they were more than willing to show me around and answer any questions as best they could.

There are seven people working each shift, and the shifts are 12 hours a day. They don't get to cook at the station -- they each bring a tiffin for lunch or dinner (depending on which shift they work).

Seeing a firehouse without a kitchen was definitely odd.  That's such a big part of the stations I've worked at. Clearly that's not a thing for them as they seemed slightly confused when we asked where theirs was.

The fire department is also a state agency, so it's under the auspices of the Karnataka state government. There are four fire stations in Coorg, so we were very lucky to have one so close to our house.

It seems both police and fire are state agencies. The firefighters at this station seemed to be originally from Coorg. But theoretically they could be assigned anywhere in the state of Karnataka. I was curious as to whether they had any say in where they worked, but the language barrier was too great to find out. 

Chris thoughtfully packed patches from his station, Engine 711 in Montgomery County, to give out to the other firefighters. He was also able to show them some of the equipment at his station on his iPhone.

The company then showed Chris their break room. Not surprisingly, there was a TV and chairs circled around it.

Good to know some things are the same at the firehouse, no matter where in the world you are.

The break room is quite dark as these are temporary quarters for the company; they are building a new station nearby. What I found unusual for a fire station (but typical for India) was that there was an altar to the goddess Durga in the station, right near where the company answers calls.

There's lots more to tell (especially if Chris tells it), but we've been without wi-fi for a while and the questions for Chris are piling up. So here it is:

Questions for Chris

We got a number of questions from Geoff Olds, Chris's co-worker at Engine 711:

1. With the heat in India, do you regret not listening to your shift at work when we told you to shave your body? 

Chris responds: As with most things in life, I regret not listening to Dan and Geoff.

2. What foods are you willing to try while you're there? 

Minny responds: Everything. I've actually been impressed.

3. Are Minal's relatives beside themselves knowing how white you are and the fact they have to really just feed you plain white rice? 

Chris responds: They've learned they can feed me any kind of dessert.

5. When do you get back? You have running routes that need to get done. [Running routes are the directions firefighters use to get to neighborhoods most efficiently.]

Chris responds: I'm extending my stay through the stay. I expect you to knock that out by the time I get back.

6. Are there any recliner chairs in India that you've found?

Chris responds: No. I'm currently homesick for the ones at station 11.

And @TheSexauer asks: Has Chris inadvertently committed any cultural or social faux pas? 

Minny responds: Not really. When meeting my uncle for lunch, he called him by his first name, which you really shouldn't do here -- it's rude to call anyone of your parents' generation by their first name only. I whispered that to Chris during lunch, and when we were leaving, he called my uncle Raghu mama. (Mama is the kodatakka word for uncle.) You could practically see my uncle's heart swell with affection.

No comments: